The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Brewers defeat Reds, Sheets’ health a concern

CINCINNATI (MCT) – Ben Sheets jacked it up to fifth gear and flipped on the cruise control.

It was all good as the ace of the Milwaukee Brewers blew through the Cincinnati Reds for five innings, allowing two hits and striking out four as the opposition never managed a runner in scoring position.

Then, engine trouble.

Sheets was lifted for a pinch hitter after a 1-2-3 fifth inning, in which he struck out two hitters, the last on a 92-mph fastball. Officially, he left the game for precautionary reasons with tightness and soreness in his right triceps after throwing 60 pitches, 39 for strikes.

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The outing was still good enough to deliver a 5-2 victory Friday night at Great American Ball Park but, because of recent history, whenever any injury is associated with Sheets, a sense of panic overtakes Brewer Nation.

The team said there was no real reason to fret and that it was too early to determine whether Sheets would miss a start.

“It’s April; you don’t take any chances when you have a five-run lead,” manager Ned Yost said. “He could have continued easily, but this is a not a time to take chances.

“I’m just not doing it.”

There could be more concern than Yost led on, however. Sheets said the soreness, which he first felt the day after his start in New York, was close to the torn latissimus dorsi muscle he suffered in 2005, which lingered into 2006. Sheets admitted that the proximity to the old injury made him nervous about how long this one could linger.

“It’s really sore,” Sheets said. “It’s kind of up in that region, top of the triceps and near the lat that I injured a couple years ago.

“It’s hard coaxing yourself through it, especially with me tearing it once before. I’m cautiously optimistic about how it feels tomorrow.”

Sheets said the triceps felt better each day leading up to his start Friday, but that going into it, he was still hurting. It really flared up in the third inning during an at-bat by opposing pitcher Bronson Arroyo.

“That’s when it felt the worst,” Sheets said.

From that point, Sheets started to feel a bit better, but after the fifth Yost made the call to go to the bullpen.

“He was throwing the ball fine,” Yost said. “Our bullpen is good enough where they can come in and finish them off.”

The bullpen did just that, throwing three and a third scoreless innings – including getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam – before two runs were charged to David Riske in the ninth. Eric Gagne had to come in for his fifth save, and he struck out Javier Valentin and got Paul Bako looking to end the game.

Things started rolling quickly for the offense with consecutive singles by Craig Counsell and J.J. Hardy, followed by Ryan Braun’s first walk of the season to load the bases with no outs in the first inning.

Prince Fielder’s sacrifice fly scored Counsell, and Corey Hart, batting fifth ahead of Bill Hall, singled in Hardy for a 2-0 lead. But that would be all the Brewers could squeeze out as Braun was thrown out at the plate after breaking for home as the Reds tried to throw out Hart stealing second.

Hall came into the game in a 2-for-22 slump on the road trip and had gone 1 for 13 with nine strikeouts against his buddy Arroyo, prompting Yost to flip Hall and Hart. Hall’s luck stayed bad as Arroyo struck him out in the first inning and again in the sixth.

But Hall snuck in a haymaker in the third, demolishing a hanging 3-2 curveball and depositing the poor thing into the second deck in left field, driving home Fielder in the process for a 4-0 start. It was Hall’s sixth home run of the season.

“I guess 1 for 100 ain’t too bad, huh?” Hall joked. “He’s owned me over the last couple of years. Whether I have good at-bats or bad at-bats, it always ends up in an out, and he still got me twice today. I guess if I’m going to get one off him, I might as well make it like that.”

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